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July 4, 2011

Paris in July

Paris American AcademyYou’d think as much as I’ve traveled, a month in Paris as a writing student would come easy. OK. Maybe not the student or writing parts; that still has me worried. But a seasoned traveler morphing into Parisian life for a month, I should be able to do that, right?

Three days into it, here’s what I’ve discovered.

(By the way, sorry. Having sworn I’d never do top ten lists when I started this blog, I’m breaking that oath.)

  • Despite my initial impression, “Solde” is not a group of St Germaine boutiques  offering beautiful and diverse Parisian goods. The deals and bargains, however, are amazing.
  • The Metro stop Jussieu is only convenient if, after 45 minutes of purposeful wandering from the exit, you find yourself somewhere other than the opposing exit.
  • Bonjour, merci, si vous plait, and au revoir, if used strategically, can be sufficient vocabulary to successfully negotiate a rudimentary retail transaction.  Until the sales clerk tells you the price. In French.
  • There is no quantity of French vocabulary to successfully negotiate an early morning croissant transaction when your smallest currency is a 50 euro. Just deal with it; you will be admonished. In perfect English.
  • My hips are too wide for most tiny cafe chairs. The croissants are not likely to help.
  • No matter how hard I try to pronounce street names and Metro stops, I’m wrong. And there’s typically someone nearby to point that out.
  • Wine really does go with everything, even eggs. (So do frites, but they are like crack. Not even once.)
  • Okay. Maybe once.
  • When people stop me on the street and ask for directions, in French, I can’t offer a whit of assistance. But I’m thrilled they think I can.

But most of all,

  • There is no greater privilege than to study writing in Paris in July.

 

I’m already scheming to figure out how to get back next year. Maybe by then, I can speak a bit of French.

 

 

June 17, 2011

Kid Wisdom

Glow Worm Cave, North Island New ZealandFriends and wisdom show up in some of the most unexpected places.  I’ve recently  discovered a terrific Facebook group, Families on the Move, and this poem appeared there over the weekend from Mojito Mother.  (I’m captivated simply by the name and her blog: Mojito Mother — Putting the MOJO Back into a Mother’s Life.)

Raising kids is hard, at least if you want to do it well.  Teaching them, mentoring them, knowing when to dial it up then dial it down. It’s a balancing act, and all of us struggle to figure out how to do it right. I remember almost 15 years ago when my god-daughter (who was around 15 at the time) observed “I think Mom needs to set more boundaries for me. I need them.” It was one of those notes-to-self moments.

Now, all these years later, you’d think I’d know something after wearing the  MOM badge for over twenty years, but three kids and a step-daughter, and I’m still learning. This piece from a child’s perspective hit at just the right time for me — funny how fate works it out that way sometimes — and I  thought it should be shared.

Don’t spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not to have asked for it.

I”m testing you. Don’t be afraid to be firm with me. I prefer it…. it makes me feel more secure.

Don’t correct me in front of people if you can help it. I’ll take much more notice if you talk to me in private.

Don’t make me feel that my mistakes are sins. It upsets my sense of values.

Don’t be too upset if I say “I hate you.” It isn’t that I hate you; I only need your attention.

Don’t protect me from consequences. I need to learn that way.

Don’t take too much notice of small ailments. Sometimes they get me the attention I want.

Don’t nag. If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing deaf.

Don’t make rash promises. Remember that I feel badly let down when they are broken.

Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I should like. This is why I am not always accurate.

Don’t tax my honesty too much. I am easily frightened into telling lies.

Don’t be inconsistent. That completely confuses me and makes me lose my faith in you.

Don’t put me off when I ask you questions. If you do, you will find that I stop asking and seek my information elsewhere.

Don’t tell me my fears are silly. They are terribly real and you can do much to understand.

Don’t ever think it beneath your dignity to apologize to me. An honest apology makes me feel surprisingly warm to you.

Don’t forget how quickly I am growing up. It must be very difficult for you to keep pace with me but please try.

Don’t forget that I love experimenting. I couldn’t get along without it, so please put up with it.

Don’t forget that I can’t thrive without lots of love. But I don’t need to tell you that…. do I?

– Anonymous

March 1, 2011

WHY WE TRAVEL — A REMINDER FROM CHRISTCHURCH

Christchurch Cathedral 24 hours before earthquakeIt’s been a week exactly since the tectonic plates beneath Lyttleton Harbor brought Christchurch, New Zealand toppling down.  The city’s famed cathedral spire lay crumbled in the town center, twenty two visitors feared crushed beneath it.

The stories keep coming.  The 14 year old boy, on a local bus headed into town to plot how best to spend his birthday money; the bus is crushed; the boy, not heard from.  The young woman trapped under her desk, texting her fiancé, who led rescuers to her then helped as they dug her out; they were married, as planned, three days later.  The husband who survived the quake, then hoofed it over Bridle Path (the bridges & tunnels closed) to reach his family; “I’m OK. Walking.  Home in 10,” he texted, just before he was struck and killed by boulders tumbling down during an aftershock. My heart breaks everytime I read another story, hear the latest fatality count.

Less than 24 hours before the earth shook, we walked those streets, exploring this quaint little city so proud of its ongoing recovery from last September’s quake.  We frittered away the morning at the Boat House Café, Sacagawea and Dundee pedal boating and kayaking up and down the Avon, while Columbus and I enjoyed a scone and a cuppa. We’ve not heard the fate of that beautiful little boat house since.

Midday found us in Cathedral Square, Columbus drawn into the act by a unicycle-riding-juggling street performer with an inflated surgical glove on his head who needed a ‘big strong man” for his theatrics.   That open-air stage now lay in heaps of rubble, the epicenter of mourning for this frightened little city.

As the afternoon wore on, the kids and I hopped a city bus back to the port in Lyttleton and settled into a hole-in-the-wall pub for some fish and chips, while Columbus hunkered down at a swanky internet café to get some work done before meeting us back on the ship.  The signage from the café can be spotted in the footage of the rubble, while the entire Lyttleton block of that sweet pub has been leveled.

Christchurch is a small town in a big city’s hat. The comingling of old and new – modern buildings with an iconic cathedral and cheeky little trams, picturesque gardens and confidant entrepreneurs – seems the heart of the city we explored.  Yeah, they’d taken a hit last September, but they were quick to show us they were back and ready for business, ready for the Rugby Cup this fall, ready to get on with life.  Twenty-four hours later, it tumbled down again.

Timing. Fate. Karma. We all know it and think we understand it.  The car accident that happens just ahead, the one we might have been part of had we not taken that last call or gotten caught at that last light.

For us, however, this one seems a big bullet to dodge.  We keep thinking through it, how we would have been just beneath that spire as it toppled, or would have been separated on the Avon, or between Christchurch and Lyttleton.  Like everything in our travels, we talk it through.  We discuss emergency procedures, self-reliance, how and what to do.  And we answer the questions as they come, admitting we don’t know all the answers.  None of us ever do.

Yet, like other travelers, we keep going.  These moments, however frightening, are a vivid reminder that life doesn’t wait. It’s a big world, and bad things sometimes happen.   We are so touched by this earthquake because we were there; we feel in our own way we know this quaint little town, and we’re pulling for it to recover yet again.  When Thailand’s king celebrated his 83rd birthday before Christmas, we celebrated too, picturing the festivals in Bangkok and around the country, our friends there laughing and celebrating until all hours.  When floods and cyclones ravaged Queensland Australia, we cried too, fearing for the safety of friends up and down the coast and mourning the secret treasures we discovered during our journeys there.

It’s our world – not just our street, our town, our state, or our country – and these are our local events.  Just as we plug into our local community back home, so must we plug into our world.  That’s why we travel.  It just took Christchurch to make me realize it.

February 3, 2011

REFLECTIONS FROM ASIA

As we get ready to head off on our next adventure, Dundee reminded me why we do what we do.  This video montage was his Christmas gift to me, a thoughtful overview of our adventures through Asia.  It’s about so much more than riding elephants, seeing temples, eating new foods.  It’s a personal journey . . . discovering who we are, connecting with the world around us,  forging life-long bonds.

Our stories of adventure are typically met with curiosity blended with a fair dose of doubt.  Can kids really learn while gallivanting around the world? Time will tell, I guess.  But there are a few things I know for sure.  I’m learning at least as much as they are, and these memories will be with us for a lifetime.  I’m not sure we could give each other any better gifts.

P.S.  The musical choices — or at least the last one — may raise some eyebrows.  Remember the post about retro-techno-music blaring from our driver’s car in Chiang Mai?  This little tune was one of his favorites.

January 29, 2011

Skiing & Tubing in Colorado

How is it that we’ve wandered the globe, yet somehow, these Hawaii kids didn’t know snow?  Imagine discovering it for the first time, as Sacagawea did just a couple of weeks ago, as our travels took us to Winter Park Colorado.  She and Dundee learned to ski, we fell in love with tubing, and we hung out around the fire munching s’mores.  I think that’s what they call family bonding.

What’s really crazy, though, is that from it, I learned to make a movie and post it to YouTube.  Okay, perhaps it’s not destined for awards or greatness, but fun nonetheless.  Technology is an amazing thing.

Check out more pics from the adventure on our Facebook page,    Colorado Ski Adventure Pics January 2011

January 26, 2011

OBAMA — A Global Name

In honor of tonight’s State of the Union, figured this photo deserved top billing.  We ran across this tuk tuk in Chiang Mail, Thailand, back a couple of months ago.

Everywhere we traveled throughout Asia, people wanted to talk with us about our President.  In him, they see hope; they see opportunity; they see our future, and from ours, theirs.